One clear theme throughout the book is that institutions are not monolithic beasts. Firstly, the avout and the saecular each have characters with whom the reader has various levels of sympathy. Then, early on we find that the Ita, a kind of NSA-for-avout, has factions within it that have different goals and internal politics. One Ita joins the protagonist in his ultimate quest. Likewise, the geometers are not of one mind, and evidence of a kind of civil unrest is one of the first encounters with them. This theme reaches its pinnacle in the epilogue, when those building Saunt Orolo's concent or whatever name they end up calling it, hedge their bets against harmony and unity across the cosmi by building walls where gates can be retrofitted in case of war.

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